A few years ago, I invested a large amount of time developing a professional relationship with a musician. I was a huge fan of their work, and began talking with them about utilizing some of their music in an upcoming film project. We even went so far as to begin developing a new project together. As professional relationships go, it was a very amicable exchange. I started to think of them as a friend, and as artists, we were both respectful of the other’s accomplishments in our crafts. We got along together very well, each bringing something of value to the equation.
Then, it happened.
I made the mistake of “personal friend-ing” them on Facebook. What was worse – it was during an election cycle. Suddenly, I was assaulted at every login with their political and social rants. And it wasn’t just that we were apparently on the complete opposite end of the political spectrum – I can live with that. It was that I felt like I had been duped, like the person I spent hours talking with was not a real person at all. Because the real person I saw on social media espoused what can only be described as hatred for anyone who happened to disagree with them politically. What made it worse, in this case, was that their posts were not just of the “I support this person for office” variety. They were rude. They were assaultive. They were insulting. And they were as broad in their labeling and targeting as anything I had ever seen. When I read their posts, I came to the obvious conclusion that deep down, they apparently hated me and everything I believed in, and I suddenly realized that I wished I had never even asked. I realized that I liked them so much more before I knew who they really were.
The new Gospel of Personal Liberty that’s engulfed social media users has the mantra that says “I am free to say whatever I want and do whatever I want – without consequence.” It’s the natural digression from a world view detached from absolutes. If we reject God in search of autonomy, absolutes disappear with God, and every man becomes an absolutist unto himself. The moral code unravels like a cheap sweater once you’ve untied the knot of absolutes and started pulling on the thread, and in the end, all you have is chaos. A ball of yarn with no purpose and no structure.
The Hollywood and Media crowd has certainly not done themselves any favors in this regard lately, and it is having a drastic effect on the state of the arts in the production world – worldwide. The smart players in the film, music and media world today are those who remember that, while personal life and business are necessarily mixed together for the new generation of consumers, there is a difference between “letting it all hang out” and saying too much when you should just be silent. Sometimes, the best way to respond to the latest tragedy or scandal is to just shut our mouths and remember that there are real lives being affected, and strangely enough – it’s got nothing to do with you – so stop trying to make it so.
Listen, we all have beliefs and issues that we’re passionate about, but let the wise man be warned. When you make your music or acting or filmmaking career a platform for something that has nothing to do with what brought you notoriety in the first place, people aren’t just going to tune you out – they’re going to turn on you, never to return. It’s a simple equation. What are you known for? Being a musician? Great. Then shut up about your politics and just sing. That’s why people have supported you – because they enjoy your music. Did you gain your fan following because you’re a talented actor? Guess what? Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, is following you because of your politics, but they will certainly unfollow you because of your politics. They’re following you because you can act – so do more of that.
It’s Marketing 101. Consistent messaging about your product, demonstrating regularly why your product is superior, and being grateful for and respectful of every single one of your fans / customers is the mark of a true professional. If you’re not running for office, rest assured your fans will be more plentiful if you remain a safe haven from the insanity of the daily news feed. Let’s get back to the art of uplifting entertainment, and reject the new paradigm of political and social division at every turn.